Thursday, January 06, 2005

No More Games of Global Conquest

I was reading through the Designer's Notes of a new card game being produced by Atlas Games entitled Gloom. In the designer notes, Keith Baker writes,

"I made Gloom because I wanted a game that my wife Ellen and I could play together. Ellen has one problem:she's too nice. Many great games -- Lunch Money, Nuclear War, Family Business, and most CCGs (collectible card games), to name just a few -- are based on the simple principle of kicking your opponents around the block until you're the last one standing. Ellen doesn't do well with these kinds of games, because she just doesn't enjoy pimp slapping a friend. So the question was how we could have a game that suited my desire for direct competition and her dislike of hurting her friends."

My wife and I experience a similar problem. Every weekend my wife and I play a board/card game with one another. We both love games, and I own an overabundance of them, so these are usually wonderful times. We also invite company over once a month for a similar affair, but with more participants and usually topped with a film of some sort. I learned early in my relationship with Jody that beating her, or losing to her, at Risk was not one of the joys of life. Essentially, when it becomes clear that one person is the winner Jody wants to stop playing. Why? Is she a poor loser/winner? No. It is simply because any continuation of the game once victory is clear seems abusive to her. When all you control is Western Australia, is there any reason to continue playing Risk except the total destruction of your opponent? At least that is how she feels.

I have pointed out to her that in many of these games sometimes things appear to be lost when there is still a chance to win. This is usually because, unlike chess, most of these games have a random element. But this is not enough to have her enjoy the game. She is competative, but not mean and she expects the same from her opponents. Thus games of Diplomacy are out of the question. These same sentiments don't arise in games where the theme isn't the killing of your opponent, even if the mechanic is the same. Make a wargame where you kill your opponent's piece before it reaches its "hideout" and Jody will frown when she kills the last of your men (even though a new one will spawn behind enemy lines), but change the name to Sorry and have it send you home and the feelings are lessened. To be fair though, we played Sorry this weekend and Jody, who loves the game, concluded "this game is really mean isn't it?"

So a good deal of my time is spent finding games which avoid one player killing the other, or their armies, as the central component. Even though I love a good wargame. So far I have introduced Jody, and friends to the following wonderful games, Ticket to Ride (amazing), Gold Digger (quick and fun), Colossal Arena (fun but the edge of Jody's tolerance for battle), Scene It! (various editions), Sherlock Holmes (A rare and beautiful card game), 221B Baker St. (a wonderful Holmes based boardgame), and Reiner Knizia's Lord of the Rings (the best cooperative game around). All of which have received rave reviews from wife and friends.

Needless to say, my love of gaming keeps me on the lookout for new and exciting games. So when I saw a game described in the following manner:

In the Gloom card game, you assume control of the fate of an eccentric family of misfits and misanthropes. The goal of the game is sad, but simple: you want your characters to suffer the greatest tragedies possible before passing on to the well-deserved respite of death. You'll play horrible mishaps like Pursued by Poodles or Mocked by Midgets on your own characters to lower their Self-Worth scores, while trying to cheer your opponents' characters with marriages and other happy occasions that pile on positive points. The player with the lowest total Family Value wins.

The person with the most miserable family wins, and the tragedies are all humorous in nature. What more could I ask for? Nothing. So Jody and I will be playing this game in the near future for certain. I will keep you posted as to its entertainment value. For the time being, let me give you a small list of the games we have yet to play, but intend to play soon.

  1. Pirate's Cove
  2. Doom: The Boardgame
  3. Kingmaker
  4. A Game of Thrones
  5. Warcraft: the Board Game
  6. Betrayal at House on the Hill
  7. Heroscape
  8. Battleball
  9. Cribbage
  10. Backgammon
  11. Runebound

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